Singapore Central Business District

    Atar Sandler moved to Singapore in 2019, taking the chance to live in a bustling global metropolis that also serves as a handy launchpad for trips to more exotic destinations nearby.

    However, they decided to packed her bags for New York with her family this month after two years of mask-wearing, socializing only in small groups, and travel limitations to battle the COVID-19 epidemic.

    “It’s been this way for a long time.” And it doesn’t seem like anything will change here,” Sandler added. “It’s a really simple life here. Is it, however, worth it to live such a comfortable lifestyle and not being able to visit family and friends or travel?”

    Risk-averse Singapore is attempting to strike a balance in dealing with COVID, intending to safeguard people on the densely populated island while also reopening its economy and borders in order to retain its status as a capital and talent magnet.

    Companies and expatriate workers have long been lured to the business-friendly country, which has a good standard of life, political stability, a talented workforce, easy access to international travel, and cheap taxes.

    COVID, on the other hand, has caused some soul-searching among Singapore’s relatively wealthy expats, who make up a quarter of the country’s 5.5 million people.

    Others joined the global “great resignation” wave, comparing its rigorous COVID standards to greater freedom back home or bemoaning the inability to travel freely to see relatives.

    Sandler found it “devastating” that she gave birth to her daughter in the midst of the epidemic, causing her family to wait a year to see her second child.

    The skyline of Singapore Singapore is attempting to strike a balance between improving public health and reopening its economy and borders.

    During the pandemic, Singapore continued to attract fresh investment and international talent, but a reduction in foreigners caused its population to plummet to its lowest level since 1950 – 4.1 percent lower year-on-year as of June 2021.

    This is mostly due to a decrease in the number of low-wage employees, who are mainly engaged in construction and maritime services.

    However, from 193,700 in December 2019 to 166,900 in June 2021, the number of employment passholders, or professionals earning at least $4,500 Singapore dollars ($3,350) a month, declined roughly 14%.

    Expatriate life is by its very nature temporary, and many people have gone because their employers have slashed prices and employment. As foreign employees left, firms were unable to quickly bring in replacements from outside due to border constraints.

    However, for Filipina Nessa Santos, who worked in Singapore for a decade, and her British husband, the epidemic provided the impetus they needed to relocate their family from Singapore, a small urban island with little hinterland, to the English countryside.

    “Our careers were fantastic, but they were also quite stressful and demanding,” Santos recalled. “We didn’t want to live like that anymore.”

    Chris Anderson, who relocated to Singapore from Hong Kong in 2019, has returned to the US to work for a software start-up. Last year’s laws, which barred foreigners from returning to the city-state despite being residents, irritated him.

    “If you leave the nation, getting back in is not a priority… “That’s constantly on your mind,” Anderson said.


    Hong Kong’s contributions are slowly trickling in.

    Nonetheless, Singapore has been making it simpler for visitors to enter, making it more appealing to expats from Hong Kong, which has more stricter requirements because to its zero-COVID policy.

    According to Lee Quane, regional director of relocation agency ECA International, there has been a “trickle” of migration from Hong Kong to Singapore. Through 2022, he anticipates expatriate outflows from Singapore to outweigh inflows, citing tougher foreign worker rules and concerns about possible virus-related restrictions.

    In a brief answer to parliamentary inquiries last week, the manpower ministry noted that the net loss in the non-resident workforce halted in 2021, with a minor net rise in November.

    The administration, which has emphasized the necessity of being open, intends to “maintain the path” of gradual reduction of border restrictions, barring unexpected situations.

    “The government works hard to ensure that firms and people continue to select Singapore as a result of our openness, rule of law, and policy consistency,” the statement said.

    According to Hsien-Hsien Lei, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, companies continue to bring in essential people and secure approvals for work permits.

    “Things aren’t ideal, to be sure. However, Singapore is a terrific location to live and conduct business from a relative standpoint,” Lei remarked.